Fresno Sheriff to open another floor at jail

August 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An extra floor at the Fresno County Jail is set to open Saturday. That paves the way for more than 400 inmates to be held behind bars. And that news means relief for law enforcement, even if it's just temporary.

The money is coming from the state, as part of the prison realignment plan. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said he hopes the extra space here will slow the revolving door.

In the coming days the Fresno County Jail will be able to house some three thousand inmates, that's up from 2,600 behind bars.

State funds are allowing Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims to open another floor of the jail.

"There will be an impact, we don't know what that will be," Dyer said. "If the last time we opened a jail floor is any indication it's short term relief." His department will take the relief, he said.

For years worn down budgets have kept several floors of the jail closed. That continues to force early releases from these jail cells.

"In the last two years we've probably released over 20,000 early release criminals into this community," Supervisor Henry Perea said. He's openly critical of the jail floor closures. He and many around the community have seen what Fresno police confirm, a rise in crime.

"That policy of early prisoner release has wreaked havoc on our community," Perea said.

"The frustration level is extremely high, not only with our department but within the community," Dyer said.

The cost of running one jail floor Perea said is about 5 to 6 million dollars a year.

And by the end of this year he hopes the board of supervisors can find enough local money to open the jail to full capacity.

Dyer said the extra bed space should be a warning to criminals. "There will be consequences. Certainly opening up this floor at the jail will send that message," Dyer said.

Perea said he's also looking into whether the county can contract out to other agencies to house local inmates.


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